Mendelssohn: Gala Concert from the Gewandhaus Leipzig (1997)

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Released 12-Oct-2000

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Classical Booklet
Main Menu Animation
Rating ?
Year Of Production 1997
Running Time 87:53 (Case: 82)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (57:15) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Bob Coles
Studio
Distributor

Select Audio-Visual Distrib
Starring Kurt Masur
Frank-Michael Erben
Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $49.95 Music Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame Audio Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, during credits

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Plot Synopsis

    So, what is so grand about the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig playing a concert of music by one of the best of the romantic classical composers, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy? Well, I suppose we could ignore the fact that the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig has been around since 1781 and is one of the better German orchestras. I suppose we could also ignore the fact that the orchestra is conducted by Kurt Masur, its chief conductor for twenty six years from 1970, a position that at one time was held by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. We could also ignore the fact that two of the works were premiered by the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. Even if we did choose to ignore these facts, this would still be a special DVD, for the simple reason that this is a nice little concert, played more than competently and presented in a generally very satisfying way. The simple fact is though that orchestras don't hang around for over 220 years unless they are pretty good - and rather well funded! The simple fact too is that conductors don't hang around as chief conductors of orchestras unless they have something good to offer the orchestra - and Kurt Masur certainly is one of the better conductors around nowadays. Then you take into consideration the fact that the music concerned is in the blood of this orchestra, and on every level this is something a little out of the ordinary.

    The concert is nicely put together with the two main works representing perhaps the high points of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy's output. A serious staple in the repertoire of many a fiddler, the Violin Concerto Op 64 opens with one of the more memorable "tunes" in classical music. The performance here is not amongst the genuinely excellent efforts I have ever heard but it has a degree of charm that makes it very listenable and enjoyable. I have not heard of the fiddler before but Frank-Michael Erben certainly does a better job than some more well known fiddlers I have heard. It is followed by a very decent performance of Symphony No.3 "Scottish Symphony" Op 56, my personal favourite of the five symphonies that the man composed. Whilst lacking the searing punch of recordings from the ilk of Herbert Blomstedt, and not quite as idiosyncratic as perhaps the piece needs, it too has a degree of warmth and charm that I find quite enjoyable. The two main pieces are then bookended by two extracts from what is perhaps Mendelssohn's most popular work, A Midsummer Night's Dream Op 61. The opening piece is the Overture Op 21, composed many years before the rest of the main work, and in itself one of the best works he composed. Certainly lacking a little in individuality, this is perhaps more of a competent performance rather than a memorable one. Rounding out the concert is undoubtedly Mendelssohn's best known work - and one that never ceases to amuse me in that many people seem to have no idea who composed it and from which work it comes. It is of course The Wedding March, quite possibly the most played piece of classical music in the world. Played with a degree of majesty, it is a nice way to round out an enjoyable concert.

    Overall this is an enjoyable effort although sadly lacking in any serious length. The performances are certainly not the best you will ever hear but are a long way from being the worst I have ever heard. Well filmed, meaning that you don't get to spend all night watching Kurt Masur wave his arms around, one of the better purely orchestral concerts I have so far enjoyed on DVD.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    In general, this is a nice transfer that suffers the usual problem that orchestral concert videos seem to suffer from: aliasing. Unfortunately, it is a little too prevalent to be ignored, and does detract somewhat from the enjoyment. The transfer is presented in a Full Frame format (1.33:1) and it is thus not 16x9 enhanced.

    Thankfully, the transfer is otherwise more than decent. As usual, there is the odd lapse in focus here and there but otherwise sharpness and definition is more than acceptable. Shadow detail is not an issue, unless you worry about how clearly you can see the audience. Overall clarity is excellent with no problems resulting from grain or low level noise.

    This is a generally rich-toned transfer, with some gorgeous colours in the string instruments in particular. There are some lapses here and there but overall it is a nice vibrant transfer. The blacks have a decent solidity to them, which is obviously quite important with everyone wearing black. There is no indication of oversaturation, but if you were to be really picky there are hints of undersaturation in some shots. Colour bleed is not an issue.

    There is nothing apparent in the way of MPEG artefacts in the transfer, but the film-to-video artefacts (in the form of the aforementioned aliasing) get really distracting. Like every DVD where consistent aliasing is present, once your eye catches it you are drawn to it and thus it seems that the problem gets worse the further through the DVD you get. Whilst obviously an illusion of sorts, there are plenty of instances to use as illustrations: the violin strings in just about every shot but exampled by 1:22, 7:02, 17:30, 19:47 and 22:20; the music stands such as between 3:40 and 3:50; and the flutes at 1:32 and 40:02. There did not seem to be any film artefacts in the transfer.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD, with the layer change coming rather obviously right at the very end of the first movement of the Symphony No.3, at 57:15. The location seems to be an odd choice considering the length of the programme and it would have been far less disruptive had the layer change been placed in between pieces.

    Since we are talking orchestral music here, there are no subtitle options on the DVD.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are two soundtracks on the DVD, being an Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack and an Audio Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 soundtrack, with the latter being the default. I predominantly listened to the uncompressed Linear PCM soundtrack, with only samplings made of the Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Given how similar they sound, I fail to understand quite why it is necessary to include two 2.0 soundtracks on the same DVD. One of them is definitely redundant, and in this instance it is the rather congested sounding Dolby Digital soundtrack.

    The music comes up well in the transfer, and there are no apparent audio sync problems in the transfer.

    There is nothing wrong with the Linear PCM soundtrack at all, and this is by far the preferable soundtrack on the DVD. Lots of air in the sound gives every instrument a chance to be heard here, and this makes a marked contrast to the noticeably more congested sound of the Dolby Digital soundtrack, which I felt presented just a slightly muddied feeling to parts of the music. Obviously we have no surround presence here and the bass channel is thankfully absent - meaning no problems with overmixed double bass or percussion instruments.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Nothing much, as we have come to expect of DVDs from this source.

Menu

    The usually classy efforts with their modest enhancements.

Booklet

    The typically quite decent effort in three languages that provides reasonable detail about the music and the performers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This is identical to the Region 1 version of the DVD other than the usual PAL vs NTSC differences.

Summary

    It might not be the absolute best orchestral concert you will ever hear and see (for we are still awaiting that on DVD), but Mendelssohn - Gala Concert from the Gewandhaus Leipzig is an enjoyable and satisfying enough delving into some of the best known works of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. A pity that the aliasing becomes such a distraction, as I am sure that I would have enjoyed this far more were I not being constantly reminded of its presence. For novice and aficionado alike, this is a worthwhile DVD to investigate. Mind you, at the rather hefty asking price, I would suggest that Sonart have an uphill battle to get widespread support for the DVD or its sisters.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Saturday, February 16, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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